- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - At least 10 municipal courts will be audited over the next year to make sure they’re not being used solely as revenue generators for cash-strapped communities, Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich said.

Most of the audit’s focus will be on a state law that says no more than 30 percent of a municipality’s general operating revenue can come from traffic ticket income, Schweich said Thursday. His office will also examine warrant statistics, embezzlement, special treatment or corruption and accounting practices.

Four courts from St. Louis County made the list, including in Ferguson, where the fatal August shooting of an 18-year-old by a police officer brought extra scrutiny of abuses by municipal courts. Bella Villa, Pine Lawn and St. Ann are the other St. Louis counties.

The remaining six municipalities are Foley and Winfield in Lincoln County, Foristell in St. Charles County, Leadington in St. Francois County, Linn Creek in Camden County and Mosby in Clay County.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s (https://bit.ly/1skyEnb ) analysis of public records showed the list didn’t include several cities that rely heavily on court revenue.

Schweich said he was open to adding more audits and that his office plans to audit five courts each year in subsequent years.

The auditor’s office picked the municipalities based on a variety of factors, including the number of traffic stops per capita and complaints on the auditor’s hotline.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III said he didn’t know why his city was chosen for an audit, because it budgeted just 23 percent of its general revenue to come from court fees this year. He said he wasn’t notified about Ferguson being identified in a hotline complaint to the auditor.

“If it’s not based on numbers or hard criteria, but just what people feel based on talking to unnamed officials, it sounds kind of political,” he said.

State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democrat from University City, said her constituents would be “very, very happy” that the Pine Lawn is on Schweich’s list. Nearly 70 percent of municipality’s operating revenue came from its court last year.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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